Posted in Education, Health

Make the switch, Lower your risk

With the month of February approaching, love is beginning to fill the air.  Red envelopes and mushy cards line the card aisles and store shelves are stocked with heart shaped boxes filled with all sorts of delectable treats.  Local florists prepare for the surge of orders for red roses and restaurants begin advertising their romantic dinners for two. But the month of February isn’t just a month that we celebrate Valentines Day.  It has also been designated as American Heart Health Month, which is jump started by the National Wear Red Day campaign, a day when everyone wears red in support of creating awareness about heart disease in women.  Naturally I participate as do my fellow employees as well.  Last year, I decided to do something different during heart month  and came up with an idea to show the impact of heart disease on our female population at work that I would like to share with all of you.

Sources indicate that 1 out of 3 women die of heart disease and stroke each year.  What’s scary is that 80% of those women who died were due to preventable risk factors.  Being overweight, smoking, eating a high sodium diet, not managing diabetes, being inactive,  not managing stress – these are all risk factors that with the right help and education, any women can change in order to lower her risk of being faced with heart disease or stroke.  The other 20% died due to unpreventable risk factors such as age or genetics – things that can unfortunately cannot change.

make-the-switchBut anyone can read statistics on paper.  I decided to put these statistics into a whole new perspective.  To exhibit the impact of these numbers at work, I choose 1/3 of our female employees as volunteers and of those volunteers, 80% of them were given my black “Make the switch, lower your risk” t-shirts to wear to exhibit the number of deaths due to preventable factors while the other 20% were given pink ones exhibited the number of deaths due to factors that could not be changed.  As you can imagine, with a group of 50 employees, majority of which were women, it became evident that the impact of such statistics could have a profound impact on just our workforce alone.  That is where I came up with the “Make the switch, lower your risk” logo that was printed on the volunteers t-shirts.  So what does it mean to “Make the switch, lower your risk”?  It’s a reminder to make a switch in your lifestyle to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.  Even the simplest of switches in your lifestyle can help to lower your risk and help you to lead a healthier life.  All employees were given goodie bags, filled with things like information about joining our local gym, to stress balls to relieve stress, Oatmeal samples as a reminder to eat a more fibrous diet to Mrs. Dash samples to encourage a salt alternative – all sorts of items to hopefully encourage them to make a switch in order to lower their risk.

As Heart Month and Wear Red Day 2018 approach, my goal is to continue with my “Make the switch, lower your risk” campaign; Not only to bring education and awareness to my fellow employees at work, but to the public as well.  I may not be able to save the by world myself, but I hope to have an impact on at least one individual, to encourage them to make a change and to help them live a happier, healthier life!

“Recognize that every interaction you have is an opportunity to make a positive impact on others.” 

~S. Hyken

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Posted in Inspiration, Life

Beginning the next chapter

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The alarm clock on my cell phone sounded.  As I reached to turn it off, I noticed it read 4:00 am.  For a moment, I couldn’t fathom why I had set the alarm so early.  Then it hit me.  Today was the day.  Today I was saying goodbye to my old defibrillator and hello to a new one.  I was the first scheduled surgery, but living an hours drive from the hospital meant an early rise and a long drive to get there.  Fortunately, my fiance, my father, and my step mother would be there with me to keep me company.

The car ride to the hospital was cold and quiet.  Thankfully, no snow was falling to make the drive difficult, but the temperatures were cold enough to chill you to the bone.  I hunkered down in the back seat of dads car, snuggled close to my fiance, and wrapped myself up with the blanket that I found in the back.  As we reached the hospital, the butterflies in my stomach began to flutter.  I was anticipating a long wait, but to my surprise, check-in, registration, and getting settled into my private room took no time at all.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I was going to be.  Likely due to the fact I had been through this procedure before.  I already had an idea of what to expect.  Before long, a nurse came in to roll me on my way to the operating room.  A kiss from my fiance, a wave to my parents, and away I went.

As I lay on the operating table, the temperature in the room felt cool. Everyone in the room moved in a perfectly synchronized dance around me, ensuring to fulfill any requests to make me comfortable.  The one request I made was to see my old device.  Apparently this was an odd request and wasn’t something that patients typically asked for, but they were happy to oblige.  Medication was administered through my IV and within minutes, my entire body was relaxed.  A drape was then placed above my shoulders and around my head, creating a cozy little tent.  The next thing I felt was a cool liquid being wiped across the left side of my chest, followed by a sudden prick of a needle that administered Novocain to the area where the surgeon would cut.  It stung and felt warm – it was uncomfortable.  Once numb, the surgery would then proceeded.  It seemed like only minutes had passed before I felt a hand touch my right shoulder gently.  The doctor was holding a small metal object in his hand in front of me to see.  “We’re all done Ginny.  Here’s your old device!” I heard his voice say.  I couldn’t help but smile and feel incredibly blessed.  This small, rounded, metal box had given me a chance to live throughout the years without fear of dying.  This box was there in order to save my life and it had served its purpose.  I couldn’t help but look at it and whisper “Thank You”.

December 28, 2017 – the day I ended the chapter on the last decade of my life and began the next chapter with a new device.  For others in my family with heart disease, they weren’t fortunate enough to live past their first chapter.  They never had the chance to live past a decade of being a cardiac patient.  I, on the other hand, have been fortunate to continue on with hopefully many more chapters to come.

Life is a precious gift.  Cherish the chapters you are given for you never know when your book will end.

“Today I close the door to the past, open the door to the future, take a deep breath, step on through and start a brand new chapter.”

Posted in Health

Low Battery

Like all things requiring batteries, the lives of those batteries eventually comes to an end.  Even those that are rechargeable will eventually wear out, will refuse to take a charge, and become useless.  Just as our cell phones vibrate or blink to indicate when it’s time to charge them, so does the life saving device that I, like other patients with defibrillators (ICD) or pacemakers, have implanted in my chest to warn me that the battery has little life left.

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Recently, after a typical day of working and hitting the gym, I came home and sat down to relax for a few minutes before heading into the kitchen for dinner.  While checking emails on my phone, I felt an incredibly strong vibration running through my arm and chest.  I quickly laid my cell phone down, only to realize it wasn’t the phone that was vibrating at all, it was the object inside of my chest – It was my ICD!!  What a strange feeling to have!! It didn’t cause any pain, but it certainly got my adrenaline pumping (and kept waking me up for the few nights that followed).  Having been to the cardiac device center a few months prior, I was informed that my devices battery was in fact getting low.  Before long, I should expect to have my device replaced.  I was also told the unit may begin to vibrate before my next appointment, a time for me to meet my new surgeon.  Go figure – just days before this appointment was to take place, the vibrations in the device began.  Unlike a cell phone, the batteries in these types of devices can’t be recharged.  No plugging ourselves into the nearest outlet and waiting for the battery indicator to read full.  Just as a check engine light that comes on to warn a driver that the car is close to running out of gas,  these warning vibrations are an indication that its time to have the device replaced as the batteries are close to running out.

So, for Christmas this year, while many will be opening gifts, filling them with fresh new batteries to play with and enjoy, I too will be equipped with new ones as well. Ones that will keep my device running and allowing me to enjoy my life for more years to come.

 

Posted in Life

Getting back on track

As we all know, the older we get, the faster time flies by.  Life gets a bit more hectic and soon we find ourselves caught up with every day tasks and mundane routines that before you know it, you begin to loose sight of some of the goals and dreams you had set out to achieve. I am not the first person it has happened to, and certainly won’t be the last.  It has and will happen to all of us from time to time.train track words

Five years ago, I began this blog with the intentions to motivate, educate, and inspire others.  This past year and a half I got a bit off track.  I have been busy working, hitting the gym, working on big projects around the house, enjoying some of my other hobbies, working on my photography and of course, spending time with my family and friends.  I most certainly lost track of writing to all of you – my audience.  Does that mean I have given up on my goal and will give up on continuing on with my blog, settling on the fact that I failed at writing?!  Most certainly not!  Like many goals, obstacles may be faced and some adjustments to the original plan in achieving those original goals needs to be made.

So, here I am, starting once again.  Getting back on track to motivate you to aim for your goals and dreams, educate you on what I have learned over the years about heart health through my own experiences as a patient and caregiver, and to inspire you to keep going when you face those seemingly unbearable challenges.

Motivate!  Educate! Inspire!

Posted in Exercise, Inspiration

A moment to stop and say “Thank You!”

 

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“The aches, the pains, the muscle fatigue…no doubt I would end up sore.  Breathing heavy, buckets of sweat dripping from my body, can’t wait to go back for more.”

Training away on the elliptical machine the other day, it hit me – 6 months of working out with my trainer Matt at the gym and I’m still going strong.  Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way and a few fattening holiday meals to contend with, but overall, I am making progress as I continue to move forward, getting fit, loosing weight, and working towards a happier heart.

At the beginning, workouts were tough and I often wondered to myself how I was ever going to make it through a singe day, let alone multiple workouts in a single week.  Me89debb562f2b432eaa7d9cfca186999y body ached and my muscles were sore – Matt had me working out areas I had probably never worked out before.  As many other gym goers would likely agree, leg days were (and still are) the worst-especially the day or two following. Everyday tasks, like sitting down in a chair, walking down a flight of stairs – heck, even sitting down to go to the bathroom were a huge challenge – you literally want to laugh and cry at the same time!  What in the world was my trainer trying to do to me?!  Is the pain unbearable? No.  Uncomfortable? Heck yeah!  But the pain does pass and it’s back to the gym to do it all over again.

I could have easily thrown in the towel so many times and said “forget this!” when things
got a little hard.  But I didn’t, not this time.  There were days I was exhausted after work, but still, I showed up.  I’m sure there were plenty of times I grumbled and groaned, pissed and moaned, but with his upbeat and encouraging attitude, Matt kept me moving along. Then there were (and still are) those times I tend not to speak up, times when I may try to push myself a littlsistersinsneakers2e too hard…a sudden twinge of pain or discomfort and I probably should speak up, but I don’t.  Times when I say I’m fine, but I think Matt is beginning to learn when I’m full of it and calls my bluff.

So to Matt, my trainer, a huge thank you for getting me back on track and helping me to work towards a fitter lifestyle.  For being a great teacher and sharing your knowledge, even when you may think I might not be paying attention to what you are talking about.  Thank you for pushing me to work a little harder when I needed to and not so much during those times I shouldn’t. And most importantly, for keeping me motivated as I work towards better health.  Continue to be a positive influence to myself and others as you help us to achieve our personal goals.

“Push harder, push farther – push myself to the limit.  Get stronger, get fitter, create a better me!”

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Posted in Exercise, Health

Winning the battle

Like so many others attempting to tackle the weight loss battle, I was no different, trying new diets, buying DVD’s and equipment to work out at home, reading countless articles on the “perfect exercises” and what foods to eat to stay healthy.   I joined gyms and of course, made a New Year’s Resolution to get back into shape every single year.  Stubborn as a mule, I always thought I could tackle this battle myself.  Jumping in head first, making drastic changes and pushing too hard, it was easy to get discouraged and discouraged I did! As an individual with a heart condition, doctors reminded me numerous times that I had IMG_6802to be careful how and what I did because I could actually end up doing more harm then good.  I finally decided late this summer that it was time to stop trying it all on my own – it was time to hire someone who could give me a hand.  So, while I haven’t set much time aside over the past few months to keep up with my blog, I can say I have been busy hitting the gym after work, training with my new trainer.

Some individuals I have spoken with since beginning this journey insist that hiring a personal trainer simply costs too much money.  These days money is spent on the latest electronics, the newest cell phones, more advanced cars, buying new clothes of the latest fashion or even just eating out multiple times a week.  So many spend a fortune on material things without even batting an eye,  but find it hard to spend money in order to maintain good health.  For me, I simply didn’t want to spend the extra money – period!  But then I finally realized…I was already wasting money on things that just weren’t working.  Hiring a personal trainer would be an investment, but an investment that I decided was entirely worth making.  I’ve spent thousands of dollars visiting doctors to help keep me healthy, why not visit a trainer and spend money for the same reason?!

The next step I had to make was to find myself a personal trainer.  I was already a member at the local gym, so obviously I started my search there.  I was pleasantly surprised when I met Matt, head of PT, who actually became my personal trainer. With his basketball physique and bubbly personality, always greeting his clients with a smile and a positive attitude, he’s beenweight loss quote a great motivator and teacher whom I’ve learned a lot from over the past few months as I’ve worked with him to get myself back on track.  Baby steps is what it takes.  Sure, there are some days that are harder than others, and my muscles burn with fatigue, but in the end it is entirely worth it!!  I’m loosing weight, feeling great and getting back to a fitter lifestyle and my heart is finally loving it!

Sometimes it takes asking someone else for help and that is what I did.  Some battles can’t be fought on our own…sometimes we need someone else to help us fight, someone who knows the weapons that will help us win.

 

Posted in Family

Dates with Daddy

Please press play and listen as you read.

Did you ever notice, as a teen, we were eager to get away from our parents so that we could go out and spend more time having fun with our friends?  As young adults, we find that we couldn’t wait to move away so that we could venture out into the world on our own.  Eventually, we began to take on more responsibilities – college, careers, buying homes, and starting our own family.  We drifted away from mom and dad, only to realize that when we became parents ourselves that we wanted to go back and spend time with them once again.  It is at this point we realize how important every moment we get to spend with our parents truly is.   These moments we share with them, we begin to cherish more as they often become fewer and farther between.

“Love your Parents.  We are so busy growing up, we often forget that they are also growing old.” ~unknown

I am no different than anyone else; I followed that same path and have come to that same conclusion.  I often get busy living life day to day, being a mom, working, and taking care of my own responsibilities that I look forward to those few times just dad and I get to spend together.

As a cardiac patient, doctor and hospital visits are inevitable.  As annoying as they may be, often times sitting and waiting to see doctors or waiting to have tests performed, it is just one of those things that I understand will always be a part of my life.  Because of my condition, I visit a specific heart clinic, located in a larger hospital about an hours drive from my home.  These visits are probably the most important visits I have and often the most stressful and exhausting.  As you can imagine, these days can be long and tiresome.   I typically drive myself, but to these specific visits, my father drives instead.  It is a route he frequented on so many occasions, taking my mom to the same hospital and ironically to the same doctors as well.  Already a bundle of nerves before going, and being tired afterwards, to drive on a busy highway would certainly be a recipe for a disaster, therefore, it is dad who becomes my taxi.

Many may find these types of days as a disruption to their daily life, but ironically, even when I get not-so-good news from the doctors during these visits, these days are still my favorite – because these are the days my father and I have our daddy-daughter dates.  Just dad and I enjoying our time together – First, the trip to the hospital to see the doctors, followed by lunch and then a trip to Barnes and Nobel.  No doubt, there is plenty of time to talk during the long drives, while waiting in the waiting room, or while we eat lunch.  Since neither of us really spend a lot of time talking over the phone, these are definitely the perfect times for us to have our own heart-to-heart talks with each other.  We talk about so many things, but what i like most is that it is the one time he and I will talk about mom and in our own ways, I think it helps us to both deal with the situation I face with my own heart problems as well as dealing with the loss of her.  I think it also helps dad to still be able to take care of his “little girl” as he watches me face many of the same things that my mom did.  Although scary for him I’m sure, I think he feels better being with me during these important visits rather than hearing about them afterwards.

So to my dad on this Fathers Day I’d like to say Thank You for those special moments we have during our daddy-daughter dates and for always looking out for me – your little Squirt!!  I’m sure it can’t be easy to watch your little girl go through the same things mom did, but I am sure glad that I have a dad like you to be by my side as I face what has become my fate.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!!!  I Love You!!